A new mission announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will accelerate the use of AI in life sciences to tackle key health challenges.

In a speech on Thursday 26 October, the Prime Minister announced that a £100 million in new government investment will be targeted towards areas where rapid deployment of AI has the greatest potential to create transformational breakthroughs in treatments for previously incurable diseases. The AI Life Sciences Accelerator Mission will capitalise on the UK’s unique strengths in secure health data and cutting-edge AI.

The Life Sciences Vision encompasses eight critical healthcare missions that government, industry, the NHS, academia and medical research charities will work together on at speed to solve, from cancer treatment to tackling dementia.

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The £100 million will help drive forward this work by exploring how AI could address these conditions, which have some of the highest mortality and morbidity.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “AI can help us solve some of the greatest social challenges of our time. AI could help find novel dementia treatments or develop vaccines for cancer.

“That’s why today we’re investing a further £100 million to accelerate the use of AI on the most transformational breakthroughs in treatments for previously incurable diseases.”

For example, AI could further the development of novel precision treatments for dementia. This new government funding for AI will help to harness the UK’s world-class health data to quickly identify those at risk of dementia and related conditions. It will ensure that the right patients are taking part in the right trials at the right time to develop new treatments effectively, and recieve better data on how well new therapies work.

By using the power of AI to support the growing pipeline of new dementia therapies, it will ensure the best and most promising treatments are selected to go forwards, and that patients receive the right treatments that work best for them.

AI driven technologies are showing remarkable promise in being able to diagnose, and potentially treat, mental ill health. For example, leading companies are already using conversational AI that supports people with mental health challenges and guides them through proactive prevention routines, escalating cases to human therapists when needed, all of which reduces the strain on NHS waiting lists.

This funding will help to invest in parts of the UK where the clinical needs are greatest to test and trial new technologies within the next 18 months. According to the Prime Minister, over the next five years, mental health research will be transformed through developing world-class data infrastructure to improve the lives of those living with mental health conditions.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Cutting-edge technology such as AI is the key to both improving patient care and supporting staff to do their jobs and we are seeing positive impacts across the NHS.

“This new accelerator fund will help us build on our efforts to harness the latest technology to unlock progress and drive economic growth.

“This is on top of the progress we have already made on AI deployment in the NHS, with AI tools now live in over 90% of stroke networks in England – halving the time for stroke victims to get the treatment in some cases, helping to cut waiting times.”

Building on the success of partnerships already using AI in areas like identifying eye diseases, industry, academia and clinicians will be brought together to drive forward novel AI research into earlier diagnosis and faster drug discovery.

The UK Government will invite proposals bringing together academia, industry and clinicians to develop innovative solutions.

This funding will target opportunities to deploy AI in clinical settings and improve health outcomes across a range of conditions. It will also look to fund novel AI research which has the potential to create general purpose applications across a range of health challenges, which will help to free up clinicians to spend more time with their patients.

This supports work the UK Government is already doing across key disease areas. Using AI to tackle dementia, for example, builds on our commitment to double dementia research funding by 2024, reaching a total of £160 million a year. Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission is at the heart of this, enabling accelerated dementia research and giving patients the access to the exciting new wave of medicines being developed.

Unpaid carers and those requiring care are in line to benefit from innovative new projects backed by a £42.6 million fund announced by the Department for Health and Social Care, as the UK Government continues to deliver on its vision for social care reform.

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